• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

Esperanza Education Project

The Esperanza Education Project offers an opportunity to aid an indigenous group by utilizing the tremendous social capital available in our university context. Interns will travel to Ecuador during the summer of 2010 to live with the Secoya community of the Ecuadorian Amazon, working directly on development projects and laying the foundations for local eco-tourism operations. Most importantly, they will contribute to the inception of a community education fund, an endowment that will subsidize the matriculation of Secoya youth to accessible, high-caliber schools.

Students will also be engaged in an inter-disciplinary, first-hand study of the resource extraction process in Ecuador and its social and environmental implications.The investigation will focus on the involved local interplay of political economics, history, and cultural identity. Field-exposure and training by a multitude of scientists, government officials, lawyers, and scholars will prepare interns to better advocate for marginalized populations with particular regard to Amazonian societies. 



Personal Statement

I run Esperanza International, Inc., a non-profit organization founded by David Poritz '11 that works to aid communities adversely affected by toxic contamination. We facilitate the collaborative development of international environmental policy and run various education and service projects both in the US and Latin America. Most of our work has taken place in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where populations suffer from the severe consequences of local oil extraction. 

The Secoya are one such community. With a distinct history and cultural identity, the Secoya have been adapting to their tropical ecosystem for centuries. The influx of extraction infrastructure and local cash economies has confronted the Secoya with previously foreign global processes. Community leadership find that increasingly, they lack the information necessary to make informed decisions regarding these issues.

Although the future of the Secoya is a subject of fierce internal debate, the value of education and understanding remains undisputed. This project springs from a direct request from Secoya leadership to confront inadequacies in the local education system and to create sustainable eco-tourism operations.